Nigeria has come to stay, but … —Alao-Akala

   Former governor of Oyo State, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, speaks with WALE AKINSELURE on why he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), offers suggestions to President Muhammadu Buhari’s government on how to steer the ship of the nation off its current turbulence and how he would have handled the affairs of Oyo State if he were governor.


WHAT’S your view on the calls for the restructuring of the country?

I support the calls for restructuring. Restructuring will address the agitation of different groups in the country. The Niger-Delta would be under a regional government that can fully attend to its agitations.


But do you think restructuring can address the agitations and clamour for a Biafra republic?

Those calling for the Republic of Biafra are jokers. Nigeria has come to stay. All those clamouring for Biafra are ignorant of what Nigerians went through during the time the Civil War lasted. You would observe that the elderly persons of the Eastern region are not at the forefront of calls for Biafra; rather, it is the young ones who have been misinformed. Fighting a war is not a child’s play.


In December 2015, you defected from the Labour Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC). While some of your followers have also joined you in your new party, others such as the members of the state House of Assembly that emerged on the platform of Labour Party have not declared themselves as members of the APC. What informed your decision to join the APC?

As of the time that I joined the Labour Party, I should have become a member of the APC. But, at that time, all the vacancies for elective positions had been filled and I would not have been able to pursue my gubernatorial ambition on that platform. Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not exist at that time. And, not long after I contested the last election, I left the Labour Party for APC. About 85 per cent of my political associates throughout the nation are members of the APC, and so I had to join the party. I did not join the APC because I seek any position. As regards members of the House of Assembly who emerged on the LP platform, we must note that they form the government of the Assembly. Also, they have to abide by certain principles guiding defection and the have to be very careful. Even if they are not there with me in body, they are with me in spirit.


What were the terms of agreement between you and the incumbent Governor Abiola Ajimobi before you joined the party?

I don’t have any agreement with him and I did not make any request. We are both politicians and he has been doing what he thinks is good for me. One does not have to give conditions before joining any party. One must first be convinced of one’s decision. I was convinced about my decision and that was why I joined the APC. The task before us as members of the party is to make the APC in Oyo State very strong.


When will your talked-about formal declaration as a member of the APC take place?

Declaration is just a jamboree. As far as I am concerned, I am an APC member. I do not need to put up any jamboree for people to know that I am a member of the APC. What is pertinent is for me to be faithful to the party that I belong to. I do not need any formal declaration for people to know that I am now a member of the APC. I have joined the party from my ward level and my followers have joined the APC from their respective wards level.


You onducted local government election during your tenure as governor, haven’t you spoken to the governor on the need to fulfill his promise to conduct local government election?

The governor or the government itself has nothing to lose. There is a lot that has to be put in place before conducting an election. Money is required and at a time when the money is not forthcoming, the governor has to think twice before deciding to conduct local government election. I will continue to urge him to conduct the local government election, but, the challenge may be lack of funds. He is struggling to pay workers’ salaries and that would be his priority now rather than using the available funds to conduct local government election. The use of caretaker chairmen might be the palliative or doctrine of necessity to shelve the election in the meantime. This does not mean that I am in support of not conducting local government election. It is not democratic. Section 7 of the 1999 constitution states the need for a democratically elected local government authority. The constitution never said selected local government authority.


Does being a member of the ruling party mean that you must now support all the state government’s policies?

The government comes up with many policies, and the governor, for one reason or the other, will have reason for bringing up any policy. But, where I think that a policy is injurious to the people of Oyo State, I will speak out.


With your defection to the APC, there are fears that the state may be gravitating towards a one-party state and reduced opposition politics. Also, there are notions about the emergence of a ‘third force’ before the next general election.

We still have the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, though the party is weak. The PDP is weak in the sense that nothing is happening. You would also agree with me that if there wasn’t opposition politics, APC would have conducted local government election and have a field day. But because we know that we will be challenged by other parties, our focus as APC is to put our house in order before conducting election. I don’t agree with you that the state is moving towards a one-party state. We still have enough time before the next general election. APC came into being in one year and the party is now running government; so, in politics, anything can still happen. In politics, two plus two is not equal to four. The political climate will become clearer in late 2017.


What are your suggestions for the nation’s economy to rebound?

President Buhari’s cabinet is full of technocrats more than politicians. Those technocrats should rather be used as advisers. He must put together an economic team that can put a call through to New York, Washington, England, and is aware of happenings in the global economic scene. Persons that are conversant with global economy – economic experts – should be engaged, not necessarily as ministers but as advisers. Also, we should stop paying lip service to agriculture. Since we have successfully removed subsidy from fuel, that money should be devoted to agriculture. Nigerians should be able to access agricultural loans with low interest and agricultural inputs should be easily accessible. I am a farmer and I can say that this year, I made the highest amount ever from selling the produce of my cashew farm. So, imagine how much money would circulate in the economy if Nigerians are encouraged to be involved in agriculture. And, the people should patronise “Made in Nigeria” goods; our production should be localised and our appetite for foreign goods and services should reduce. Some time ago, Nigerian were encouraged to use a Peugeot car, including the Head of State, because it was being produced in the country. I must add that I am also baffled to see our banks and other financial institutions advertise their goods and services in the foreign media rather than focus on their customers here in Nigeria.


What do you make of the current fight against corruption?

I like the idea of fighting corruption. However, the present administration is treating the symptoms and not actually the ailment. Corruption began a long time ago and it was caused by the military. Corruption was established during the military era. When Murtala Muhammed came to power, he announced the retirement of civil servants on radio, even when some people had not attained the retirement age. Due to this, every civil servant became compelled to acquire all they could while serving, knowing that they could be retired at any time. Many of those civil servants that were retired had no house and some died out of frustration. In those days, civil servants upon employment were given furnished accommodation among other necessities to live a comfortable life. Also, politicians are termed corrupt, but politicians cannot carry out corruption without the assistance of civil servants. So, our president should tread softly and try to institutionalise dealing with corruption, especially from the root, and not on the surface.

The times are really challenging, especially in your state. How would you have handled the situation if you were the governor?

Perhaps, I would have handled the situation better. But, we must acknowledge that the lack of adequate funds, currently, may hamper effective governance. I was lucky that during my tenure as governor, funds were much available to run governance, and I properly managed those funds. I may have also been able to manage the crisis better. I would have cut my coat according to my cloth. I would be as transparent as possible to allow the people see the situation. I may have done certain things in a different ways, because the styles of governance differ. I would not have unnecessarily borrowed money that would mean deductions from source. I left monumental development in Oyo State that people can point to; I created institutions like LAUTECH Teaching Hospital in Ogbomoso that would remain for years and did all that without borrowing a dime. However, I don’t have the data of what is currently accruable to the state.